Community
10 Things in the Food World We Loved in December
Including a funny mispronunciation, a delightful Great British Baking Show crossover, and the heartfelt discovery of 10-year-old gochujang.
12-31-2020
America's Test Kitchen

One of the things all of us at America's Test Kitchen have in common—no matter what department we work in, whether it's in the kitchen or at a desk—is a love of food. And not just eating and cooking it, but learning about it. We talk about the latest food podcasts with coworkers, share interesting articles in Slack, and have long email chains about what food-related activities we're doing after work or on the weekends.

That's why we decided to start a series where we share the things we loved over the course of the previous month: things that made us think, things that made us laugh, things that reminded us why we relish being a part of the food world. If we enjoyed them, we thought you might, too.

In the latest installment of the series (you can find the other months' lists here), we've got 10 things that we loved in December, submitted by ATK staff members from all over the company.

1. Nigella Lawson pronouncing "microwave"

Years ago, on a trip to Connecticut to visit some family, my adult cousins kept referring to this amazing local restaurant pronounced "Pay-ACH-wah-vay." It sounded so exciting! I couldn't tell what kind of food it was based on the name, and I was eager to find out. When they finally took me, we drove up to a chain frozen-yogurt place called Peachwave. Joke was on me. Hearing Nigella Lawson pronounce "microwave" brought me back to that trip and had me laughing as much as I did then. Mari Levine, Web Managing Editor

2. Oakland’s Den Sake Brewery

Watching Tastemakers on PBS recently, I saw a segment on Yoshihiro Sako and his Den Sake Brewery, established in Oakland in 2017. My husband said he would love some Den Sake for Christmas, hint, hint. So the very next day, I ordered six bottles of Yoshi's unpasteurized Nama, supporting an artisanal maker and getting some holiday gifts all in one shot! (There is a pasteurized version available, too.) We got our bottles in two days and cracked one open immediately. Oh my goodness, fruity, mellow, delicate. Divine. And as the website says, the sake is designed to pair with American food, which is more protein rich than Japanese. Den Sake is a pure rice sake made from single origin Cal-Hikari rice that comes from one farm, the Rue & Forsman ranch in the Sacramento Valley. They only ship regionally, but the Tastemakers segment is worth watching even if you can't taste the sake! —Kaumudi Marathe, Senior Editor, Cookbooks

This crossover was filmed in early 2020 but just became available in the US on Netflix in December—and the timing was perfect. The thing I love most about the baking shows is that all of the judges, hosts, and cast members genuinely seem to like and care about each other. This crossover episode retains that warm-hearted vibe but it's just a little bit more rambunctious than usual, thanks to the addition of Derry Girls co-stars Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, Nicola Coughlan, Dylan Llewellyn, and Siobhán McSweeney. There are more than a couple laugh-out-loud moments. My favorite was when McSweeney misjudges how much gelatin to add to her trifle but there's lots to enjoy in this episode. —Kate Shannon, Deputy Editor, ATK Reviews

4. Chicago’s Justice of the Pies bakery

Chicago's Justice of the Pies does more than just churn out delicious pies, quiches, and tarts. Owner and self-taught baker Maya-Camille Broussard considers the bakery "a social mission in a culinary art form," so part of the proceeds go to benefit the community and combat food insecurity. They ship all over the country (my favorite is the bourbon pecan) and they also have some super-fun merch. —Elle Simone Scott, Inclusion Leader, ATK TV Cast Member, and The Walk-In Podcast Host

5. Tan France's recipe for Tarkha Dal

I made this a few months ago, and it's wonderful, so now I make it all the time. In fact, as I type this, I'm just putting my Dutch oven on the stove to make more. It's Tan France's family recipe and the butter and garlic and lentils come together to make a fantastic, creamy, buttery, garlicky comforting dish. You can make a huge pot of it and enjoy it for a few days, and it's perfect for long winter days. —Lisa McManus, Executive Editor, ATK Reviews

I came across this feature about growing your own crocuses for saffron threads and found it really beautiful! It profiles Melinda Price and Simon Avery, the farmers (and married couple) behind Peace and Plenty Farm, which is the only organic grower of saffron in the United States. The farm was established in Kelseyville, California, in 2017 with 7,000 bulb-like corms; It now includes 500,000 corms. The feature has a lot of really great photos and interesting information about farming saffron (it's incredibly time-consuming), and some ideas for how to use it. —Lulu Riley, eCommerce Merchandising Assistant

7. "Hunger for the Water," by Leslie Pariseau

A dear friend gifted me a subscription to Oxford American for my birthday earlier this year and I've spent December catching up on past issues. One of my favorite articles was this essay from Leslie Pariseau, which centers Melissa Martin and her work to preserve Cajun cooking in New Orleans. Martin is the chef and owner of Mosquito Supper Club in New Orleans and the author of Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou. This essay is so illustrative; you can really visualize the bayous and kitchens Pariseau and Martin visit together. Through Pariseau's words, you understand the importance of Martin's purpose—"particularly at this moment when this ragged fringe of America has already, by many, been chalked up to lost." —Mari Levine, Web Managing Editor

8. Eric Kim's grandmother's "time capsule" gochujang

Eric Kim's Instagram post of him opening a small ceramic crock of the gochujang his grandmother made before she passed away 10 years ago is top of my "Things That Made Me Weepy" list this month. His mom saved it in the freezer and brought it out one night to surprise his dad, and they spent the dinner sharing memories about his grandmother and enjoying the strange experience of eating something they thought they wouldn't ever have again.

But the real treasure trove was in the comments, where people shared similar experiences—finding their nonna's long-forgotten jarred marinara in her basement or their dad's smoked salmon tucked away in his freezer—or simply memories about their parents' and grandparents' cooking that they wish they could taste again.

It made me remember how when my mom and her siblings were cleaning out my grandmother's room after she passed away, they found a list written in her perfect penmanship from just days before she died: "Chardonnay. Brownie mix. Good vanilla ice cream." She had no doubt capitalized on the few moments she had alone (nobody there to hassle her about driving, which she wasn't supposed to be doing in those days) to drive a few blocks to the grocery store to pick up these essentials. 

I've thought about that list often, picturing her eating a warm brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a glass of wine on the side. I can't even imagine what it would be like to find those brownies, perfectly preserved, a decade later. —Brenna Donovan, Assistant Editor, Cookbooks

There's been no shortage of writing about the incalculable loss we're facing in the restaurant industry, but this latest tribute by the inimitable food writer Ligaya Mishan is a personal, intimate letter to the industry—her “anchor to the world." From when she was growing up in Hawaii to when she was the restaurant critic for The New York Times, restaurants have served as Mishan's gateway to new worlds and great teachers. They have also been the source of some great stories, which she shares in in this article. Give it a read and then please plan your next takeout meal. Liz Bomze, Cook's Illustrated Managing Editor

10. "121 Minutes With Guy Fieri," by Adam Platt

I watched a lot of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives in 2020. I was missing dining at my favorite local restaurants, and "Triple D" took me where I couldn't go—into the lively dining rooms and bustling back kitchens of eateries around the country. Over the course of watching the show—now in its 33rd season!—I gained a newfound appreciation for Guy Fieri. (Sure, he may be corny, but he's been elevating local restaurants and different cuisines long before it became a necessity.) I enjoyed learning more about him in this profile for Grubstreet by Adam Platt, including his aha food moment and the origin story of his bleached hair. —Mari Levine, Web Managing Editor